Can You Give A Robot A Conscience?

At the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, roboticists like professor David Barrett have been working on developing robots with something akin to a human consciences. They use the term “eusocial” from biology, with the goal of creating robots that factor in the needs of others before taking action rather than merely completing individual missions. For example, termites are eusocial.

“When robots begin to have a sense of what the mission is, when they become collaborative, when they begin to anticipate what people need —and more importantly, when they are willing to sacrifice themselves, they become eusocial robots,” he said. Think of a fire-fighting robotic dog that sacrifices itself to rescue people or being them oxygen in burning buildings. Or of a robot riveter that stops short of punching through a human workers’ misplaced hand because the robot has been programmed to value human safety over assembly line efficiency.

Barrett, who came to Olin after working at Disney and iRobot, said rapidly changing technology adds some urgency to the challenge of making robots that only benefit humans. “It’s not too soon to start the process (of imbuing robots with conscientious traits),” he said. “Letting super smart, super fast robots out of the bag ... after the fact is probably a dangerous thing to do.”

Ethical dilemmas for robots are as old as the idea of robots in fiction. Ethical behavior (in this case, self-sacrifice) is found at the end of the 1921 play Rossum's Universal Robots, by Czech playwright Karel Čapek. This play introduced the term "robot".

Isaac Asimov's famous fundamental Rules of Robotics are intended to impose ethical conduct on autonomous machines.

The same issues about ethical behavior are found in films like the 1982 movie Blade Runner. When the replicant Roy Batty is given the choice to let his enemy, the human detective Rick Deckard, die, Batty instead chooses to save him.


(Roy Batty debates saving Rick Deckard in Blade Runner)

Science fiction writers have been preparing the way for the rest of us; autonomous systems are no longer just the stuff of science fiction. For example, robotic systems like the Predator drones on the battlefield are being given increased levels of autonomy. Should they be allowed to make decisions on when to fire their weapons systems?

The H-II transfer vehicle, a fully-automated space freighter, was launched Japan's space agency JAXA. Should human beings on the space station rely on automated mechanisms for vital needs like food, water and other supplies?

Ultimately, we will all need to reconcile the convenience of robotic systems with the acceptance of responsibility for their actions. We should have taken all of the time that science fiction writers have given us to think about the moral and ethical problems of autonomous robots and computers; we don't have a lot more time to make up our minds.

In a similar vein, try this article on Computer 'Aesop' Writes Fables With A Moral and Should Autonomous Cars Have Feelings About Crashes?.

Via BizJournal.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/8/2015)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

'We're Not Creating A Terminator' Say Russians About Gun-Wielding Robot Fedor
Nobody is thinking about the Terminator. Westworld, maybe.

Pooper Scooper Drone Robot Watchdog 1
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk...' - Harry Harrison, 1956.

Cassie Robot Brings AT-ST Walker To Life
There's even a log test!

Hundreds Of Robot Lawnmowers Invade Texas Town
'The mower reached the edge of the lawn, clucked to itself...' - Clifford Simak, 1944.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Cattle Avoidance Feature In Indian Autonomous Cars
'The driver went about the business of gently slipping the teflon-coated metal scoop beneath the first animal...'

Project KOVR Fashion Protection From Infosphere
'... the entire shroudlike membrane took on whatever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond.'

Twist Bioscience High Density Digital Data On DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!'

'We're Not Creating A Terminator' Say Russians About Gun-Wielding Robot Fedor
Nobody is thinking about the Terminator. Westworld, maybe.

Vantablack Now IMMEASURABLY Black
'a black coating now that’s ninety-nine percent absorptive...'

Mercedes-Benz Autonomous Taxi Fleet In 3 Years
'... the taxi utilized sophisticated electronic sensors to perceive its surroundings.'

Is 'The Pulsar Positioning System' Evidence For SETI?
'For a hyperspace jump, you need at least four beacons for an accurate fix.'

Someday, You Might Like VR Enough To Move In
'That barrier was going to melt away someday soon. The transhumanists had promised...'

Humans Use Mental Power For Turtle Slavery
Now we need to start looking for animals with fingers...

Solar-Powered Moisture Vaporator
'The atmosphere yielded its moisture with reluctance.'

DxtER! Tricorder Prize Won By Final Frontier Medical Devices
We've been waiting a long time for this, Star Trek fans.

President Trump's Wall As Otra Nation Hyperloop
'...an hollow tube must be constructed the whole distance... as to admit a four wheeled carriage...'

Pickup Lines From Artificial Intelligences
'They hate us, you know... The humans. They'll stop at nothing.'

Pooper Scooper Drone Robot Watchdog 1
'Robots pick up the garbage and junk...'

Cassie Robot Brings AT-ST Walker To Life
There's even a log test!

Hundreds Of Robot Lawnmowers Invade Texas Town
'The mower reached the edge of the lawn, clucked to itself...'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.